Austrian tourist facing spy probe in Sudan


Khartoum – An Austrian tourist said he had been questioned in Sudan on suspicion of being a spy after police found articles about a former rebel group in his luggage.

Thomas Hirschvogel, 20, wrote on his blog he had been barred from leaving the coastal city of Port Sudan while police carried out an investigation.

“They believe that I’m either a journalist or a spy,” he wrote on his Web site Hirshblog ( on Saturday.

“In the meantime … I can only move around in Port Sudan, always accompanied by a guy from the National Security Office.”

The Austrian consulate in Khartoum on Monday said it was trying to get in touch with Hirschvogel.

“We cannot confirm the status yet,” said a spokesman for the Austrian Foreign Ministry. He said he was aware of the reports.

No one was immediately available for comment from Sudan’s police or security services in Khartoum or Port Sudan.

Hirschvogel wrote that he had first been arrested while trekking in Sudan’s eastern Red Sea Hills region over the new year and was told he did not have proper travel permits.

When he returned to Port Sudan to apply for the permits, officers searched his bags and found articles about former eastern rebels the Beja Congress Party, who were involved in a low-level insurgency in east Sudan until a 2006 peace deal.

“It was just soooooooo stupid to carry them in my luggage,” wrote Hirschvogel in the last entry on his blog on Saturday.

Police had stopped him from making phone calls but allowed him to use the Internet, he said.

Hirschvogel’s blog said he was visiting Sudan as part of a one-year trek that also included Egypt, Ethiopia, Yemen, Oman, Iran and Turkey.

He wrote that he had come across a number of Beja faction members who had told him they were disappointed with the terms of a peace deal recently signed between their leaders and the Sudanese government.

The tourist said he used to work for an organization representing illegal immigrants in Austria. “The difference (for me is) that there’ll be no NGO supporting me. The Austrian embassy here has very (little) influence.”